An everyday hero

Duy Vuthy with two of his boys receives gifts from friends and neighbors after returning from hospital (Photo credit: Chheng Savin)

PHNOM PENH--What makes a hero? Is it the soldier who forges ahead in a war? Or can it also be the person who goes to work every day, no matter how hard it is, so that there will be enough to feed the family?

Doing one’s ordinary job may be less spectacular than fighting the enemy on the frontline, but it often takes a great deal of courage to do so. 

Duy Vuthy was such a man, said Chheng Savin, a graphic designer and photographer who shadowed him over several weeks to document his daily life in photos.

This series of photos she entitled “Duy Vuthy, Father Courage” is now exhibited at Imag’in Gallery in Phnom Penh. They are also featured in a small photo book available at the gallery.  

Duy Vuthy at work at a market in Phnom Penh (Photo Chheng Savin)

A very special ordinary man

“When I met him, things were not so good: He looked thin,” Savin said. “Still, he worked very hard every day,” she said, even though he did not have the use of his legs.

Savin met Vuthy a few years ago while working on a project for her photography class.

A graphic designer from Battambang City now chief layout designer at the Melon Rouge Agency in Phnom Penh, she was attending the Studio Images workshop given by French photographer Philippe Bataillard at the Institut Français.

Assigned to produce a series of photos on a theme, Savin decided to focus on physically handicapped people and the difficulties they face in daily life. “It’s hard for them,” she said.

She first encountered Vuthy at a market in Chbar Ampov district near the Monivong bridge. Originally from Prey Veng province, he had been disabled since birth.

“He had three boys to support on his own,” she said. “His wife had passed away a few years back.”

Carrying water and whatever he may need for the day in a bag on his back and another around his neck, Vuthy would go from market to market in Phnom Penh, hoping that people would give him money or the occasional fruit.

“It was not easy,” Savin said. “He could not stay at one place and get money. So he went from market to market.”

With his approval, Savin followed Vuthy on his rounds during five or six weekends. As she found out, usually it was Cambodians who gave to him.

Some friends and neighbors would occasionally help: One time when he went to the hospital, he was welcomed home with small donations of food, bottled water and household goods. Vuthy passed away about a year ago.

Savin recently went back to his old dwelling near a pagoda to inquire about his children. She was told that they work, even the younger one who is a teenager.

The exhibition runs through June 26. Imag’in Gallery is located at 2A Street 93—off Street 86 at Monivong Boulevard—behind Phnom Penh Hotel. For information: [email protected]

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